Shoot straight from the hip. Tell it like it is. Keep it real.
We love these commands, especially in America, because they appeal to what we want to believe: that there's an authentic self to which we can be true. But while we mock Tricky Dick and Slick Willie, we're inventing identities on Facebook, paying thousands for plastic surgeries, and tuning in to news that simply verifies our opinions. Reality bites, after all, and becoming disillusioned is a downer.
In his new book Keep It Fake: Inventing an Authentic Life, Eric G. Wilson investigates this phenomenon. Hedraws on neuroscience, psychology, sociology, philosophy, art, film, literature, and his own life to explore the possibility that there's no such thing as unwavering reality. Whether our left brains are shaping the raw data of our right into fabulous stories or we're so saturated by society's conventions that we're always acting out prefab scripts, we can't help but be phony.
But is that really so bad? We're used to being scolded for being fake, but Wilson doesn't scold--because he doesn't think we need to be reprimanded. Our ability to remake ourselves into the people we want to be, or at least remake ourselves to look like the people we want to be, is in fact a magical process that can be liberating in its own way. Because if we're all a bunch of fakes, shouldn't we embrace that? And if everything really is fake, then doesn't the fake become real--really?
In lively prose--honest, provocative, witty, wide-ranging (as likely to riff on Bill Murray as to contemplate Plato)--Keep It Fake answers these questions, uncovering bracing truths about what it means to be human and helping us turn our necessary lying into artful living.
Literature professor Wilson (Against Happiness) delves beneath the surface of self-help platitudes in this wide-ranging yet personal work. In a series of 50 short, op-ed-style essays, he cites such thinkers as Plato, Borges, Alan Ginsberg, Schopenhauer, and William James in erudite and resonant explorations of the theme of living a productive and rewarding life of the mind. Wilson acknowledges the difficulty of doing so in the real world and in the face of depression and bipolar disorder. A gifted, candid raconteur, he serves up pithy and often playful writing that serves to remind us that "by the time we become aware of ourselves we are already trapped in fictions not of our making," and the only way out is to write new stories for ourselves. What seems real may actually be fake, and vice versa, but fortunately, as Bill Murray's character in Meatballs another touchstone for the author declares, "it just doesn't matter." Readers should be left entertained and enlightened by Wilson's vast knowledge, immediacy, and honesty.